09/26/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Three monks killed by Burmese army

It is the Buddhist community’s ultimate act of excommunication against the junta and the army. Fear grips in the population but divisions in the army might lead to desertions.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Local sources said that at least three monks were killed today by Burmese security forces in an attempt to stop anti-regime demonstrations. One monk was shot as he tried to disarm a soldier; the other two died from wounds after they were beaten by police.

Despite a ban on demonstrations issued by the military junta and a 60-day curfew, thousands of monks and students gathered in front of Shwedagong Pagoda to start their protest march.

Riot police shot in the air and fired tear gas at columns of monks and civilians, beating and arresting many of them.

Few in the population know how to continue the protest. Eyewitnesses have told AsiaNews that “fear is palpable.” No one can forget the 1988 demonstrations when the military shot and killed at least 3,000 people.

What is clear though is that the killing of the monks marks a watershed and the military’s total rejection by Buddhist authorities.

“Until a little while ago, the government pampered the monks because of their influence in Burmese society,” the aforementioned sources said. “At every ceremony and TV programme you could see the green of the military and the red of the monks. Now there is some kind of excommunication against the whole junta and the army.”

Sources told AsiaNews that the violence against Buddhist monks might cause divisions within the ranks of the army in a country with very deep religious roots.

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